Transcript from Interview 19 January 2013
Minor grammatical adjustments made for better understanding.
So first of all thank you for meeting with me. I want to start by just asking where you are from?
I am from Madaba.
Now I imagine your parents raised you as a Catholic here. Was your family always from Madaba for many generations?
Where are you originally from?
Well, my family name is Kildani, which means in English, Chaldean.
Yes, the Arabic word Kildani means Chaldean in English. Chaldean which means the people who lived in the Mesopotamian since the second millennium before Jesus Christ. So my family came from somewhere in Northern Iraq, in the late 19th century as pilgrims to Jerusalem and from Jerusalem they moved to Madaba, Southern Jordan. Madaba started to be the city under the patronage of the Patriarchate. The people of Madaba themselves… the Christians of Madaba, this people used to live in Karak in the south but they moved to Madaba in 1875.
Were they kicked out of Karak?
Yes. They left Karak. For many reasons, for marriage reason, killing between the tribes, north east tribes… and so they left Karak to Madaba and this shifting from Karak to Madaba was done under the patronage or the surveillance of the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem cause they are Catholics. So my family I believe, they came to the Jerusalem. It was during the Ottoman period. The Ottoman Sultanate if you’ve read the history. And it was one country under the Ottoman Sultanate. You could move everywhere.
It was a big empire.
Yes, empire. They came to the Jerusalem as pilgrims. Many of them… they came thousands, hundreds of people came. Than many of them they moved back to their country of origin. Some families including my family of mother and my father didn’t go back to their country of origin. So instead of Northern Iraq, they moved to Madaba. I believe in the beginning there were about seven or eight families and when they came Madaba they don’t use the family name. It was difficult name for the local people. They used the name of origin. Where are you from? Kildani. I am from Kildani. We are Chaldeans. So they are called Kildani. So I am the 4th generation born in Jordan… 4th… myself 4th generation born in Jordan in Madaba. Myself I was born in Karak, southern Jordan because my family was owner and still owner of a big farm in the Jordan valley south of the dead sea. Not the Jordan valley here on the northern side, but the southern side. And in the summer they live in Karak and in winter Al-Ghor down Jordan valley. I was born in Karak and when I was 3 years old I think, I don’t remember, I was a child, my family moved back to Madaba. So I can say I am from Madaba.
So do you have a big family? Lots of brothers and sisters?
Yes, I have five brothers and sisters.
You see the photos here. (pointing to pictures on the wall behind him)
Oh that’s your family?
Yes, these are my brothers. I am the elder. This is Louise. He is a doctor, anesthetist. He is married. He has five children. This one is George. He is civil engineer. He is married and he has three children. Now he has retired from his work. He left his work here. He was working in the ministry of public works and they moved to Canada for the education of their sons. They are in the university. And this one, his name is Ramzee. He is married. He has two sons and one daughter. He is ex-colonel of the Jordanian police. And then my two sisters. This one sister, she is called Ann. She is married to a dentist and she has two boys and two girls. And this is Michal. You know Michal, what is Michal?
The wife of David, one of the wives of David.
Oh, yes, yes.
It will come in the Bible. My father liked this name, read in the Bible and gave her the name Michal. She is dentist and she…
She lives here in Amman?
In Amman yes, and she has three boys.
So you have a big family. Now… as you were growing up your parents taught you about God and Jesus Christ, but to become a priest, a Father, to devote your entire life every day serving the church, that’s a big decision. When did you make that decision and was it a difficult process for you?
No, it was not a difficult process. There are no miracles inside, no operation, no special thing, very simple. As I was growing in a Christian family where Sunday mass was very important to us. Going to the church and seeing the priest in the church and growing in a Christian family, a Catholic family… All the families were Christian families, very traditional families, and I did the letter school in Madaba. There was a bishop in my family. He was the cousin of my mother and his name is Hanna, my name. And I think that my mother gave me the same name as my cousin. He is Bishop. He passed away in 1996. He was the Bishop of Nazareth and I had an idea when I was, let’s say, 10 years or 11 years old to be priest. I went to the seminary.
Wow, you were pretty young.
Yes, I went to the seminary in West Bank in Palestine when I was 14 years old, 13-14 years old. You know, in seminary I did my normal studies like all the students. We had to learn to study French and Latin and a little bit of Italian. I finished the high school in seminary and when I was 18 years old. At that time Jordan and Palestine was one unit for education. So the result of the… it’s the public exam in the Jordan and the exam is given by the government. It’s called Tawjihi.
Yes, I know it.
Well I passed Tawjihi and I was one of the top ten of Jordan. It is usually given every year up until now. They give the list of top ten for the Tawjihi. The top level branch. So I was one of the top ten of Jordan and Palestine together, not just Jordan, but Jordan and Palestine. Some years later my younger sister, this one, she was top ten of Jordan also. I am the elder I got the top ten and the youngest one Michal got top ten of Jordan. It was very important to us at that time so we had a big feast. I thought to leave the seminary and go study abroad. So I came to my father and said, “I want to go study in England”. He never discussed with me. He respects my freedom. He said to me, “If you would like to be a priest you can do it but if you would like to go to England, then you can go” and as my father is farming in the Jordan valley and working with the United States, his budget was very well off. He was a little bit rich. As we call it in French, la Bourgeoisie.
Ah… the Bourgeoisie.
Yes, he had enough money. He wasn’t in need of my work to help him. So he said to me, “How much money do you need to go to England? ”I said to him, “I need 10,000 diners to go and study for five or six years”. At that time it was 1973. So he give me a check for 10,000 JOD. “Go and do what you want, feel free”. I kept the check in my pocket for one week and I came back to him and I said, “No, I will not go to England. I will give the check to you. I want to be a priest.” He said, “If you like. You can do it”, very simply.
That’s great that your father was very understanding and supportive.
Yes, he was an old man but very modern. His ideas were very modern and very advanced for his time or age. So I went to the seminary as I attend the first year of Philosophy. At that time I got a scholarship from Jordanian government and I was called in the newspapers here and in Palestine twice to come and collect the scholarship as I was one of the top ten of Jordan. So I dropped the scholarship for the university. Coming back the next summer I was little bit sad because I dropped the scholarship. I told my father I want to be… I want to go and study in Beirut, same story. He said to me, “But how can you study in Beirut when you are in the seminary?” I said to him, “I will manage. I will manage myself. I will study there and… both.” So I registered myself in the University of Beirut to study history and…
The American University of Beirut?
The Arab University of Beirut. I did my bachelor degree and I managed my time to study theology and philosophy in seminary here and to study history in Beirut. So I passed the exams in May for instance in the seminary and in June I pass the exams for Beirut. For Easter and Christmas I go to the university to attend the courses with some more days.
That’s an incredible amount of work!
Yes… So in six years… I did about 12 years of university, compact. I was in two different colleges in two different countries. It was during the civil war in Lebanon which started in 1974. So the attendance for the course was not so accurate. You see during the war you can’t ask the teachers… the boys to come to the school. So when it was peaceful in Lebanon I go there for ten days, I attend the course, and I leave for two months back to Beit Jala where I was studying in seminary.
Oh Beit Jala. Near Bethlehem.
Yes, and it was during the civil war and little bit this was not so… so I managed to study in two colleges. So I finished high school in 1973. In ‘79 I was ordained a priest. I had three bachelor degrees – theology, philosophy, history and later on after my ordination I followed my studies in St. Joseph’s University. It was with the University of Beirut for the masters degree and PhD.
You did a lot of studying and lot of traveling and you were very young when you first decided to become a priest. How old were you when you first left home?
12 years old?
Yes, 12 years old.
I imagine you missed your family while.
Little bit. But I’m not so romantic. *smile*
Now to make that decision to go to seminary at such a young age…
A boy, yes, but seminary… it was ordinary study in a school.
Sure, but it was a church school?
The church school, yes. And with time you discover if you have…
Oh, if you want to be a priest or not?
Yes. In the church linguistics, the church way, you say you will discover your vocation if you have a vocation, if you are called. I remember when my class was about 15 or 20 students, all of them left with time. There were only 2 priests in my school… in my class you see. With the time they discover they can’t do it or they don’t like to do it or they don’t have the vocation. So its not a decision you do it once forever, you take step by step.
I understand. It’s a lot easier that way.
Easier and finally you have… you decide the ordination… the deacon ordination and the priest ordination.
Did you ever feel like God was speaking to you, telling you to…?
Little bit, yes but not the miraculous way. In very simple way.
Right, so then maybe you felt the Holy Spirit just touch your heart very softly, very gently?
Yes, I think what I felt really was with the time, that I have to respond to the love of God. And you can respond to the love of god by doing well. You can respond to the love of god by doing charity. You can respond to the love of god by marriage also. Because in marriage St. Paul says, “You men you have to love your women as Jesus loves the church.” The matrimonial relation, man and women, is like the love of Christ to the church, you see. And you can respond to the love of God by priesthood or to be religious, in order, you see. So there are many ways to respond to the love of God. I can’t say that priesthood or the fact that you are a religious monk is the only way to respond to the love of God. Not the only way. It is a way. It is one of the ways and every way you respond to the love of god you need to have some kind of vocation, an inclination, you as a young man working in photography studying in university in your way, in your environment, in your style of life, plus or minus, you respond to the love of God in a different way, you see. Now I ask you if you like tea or coffee. You say, “No, I don’t take tea or coffee.” I know that you are doing that for the love of God because you believe in the church, you obey the church, and the church tells you not take coffee or tea and you do that for the love of God because its you way of showing your love of God. And so it is. In life, my life, your life and for everybody in life, there is a vocation, a calling, and you respond day by day, minute by minute you respond to God. Sometimes you have to take big decisions in one day, the day of marriage, the day of ordination, the day of baptism. They are big dates but I think there you need to say yes or no to the love of God.
So now that you are the Father here, just outside of Amman. What are some of your responsibilities and roles? You take care of the parish and the people here?
I head the parish here. I am here since ten years now. Before I was in Fuheis, a bigger parish then here. And for eight years from 2000 up to 2008, beside my work as parish priest, I did two big jobs which took too much of my time. I was the leader of education of the Latin patriarchate, which means I had on my shoulders 1000 employee and 11, 000 students to run their schools, 23 schools. I had a team to work with me. So I did this job for eight years. Started when I was in Fuheis and completed when I moved here to Marj Alhamam Parish. In 2008 I gave up this job, turned it over to another priest and the other job I was doing… I was the General secretary of the Christian schools, all the Christian schools.
For all the…?
All the Christian schools. And I did that for eight years also. And now after one year since I finished that job as a general secretary, the Patriarch asked me to retake this job again, so I am manager of the association of the league of the Christian schools in Jordan, which means my capacity in the job is to represent the interests of the Christian Schools to the Ministry of Education and other Ministries. We do the training for the schools and we do also the health insurance so actually I am working in health insurance also. They do that for a company, for the teachers and people who are working in our schools. In the Christian schools there are around 2000 teachers and employees and we have in these schools about 23-24,000 students, both Christians and Muslims. I don’t deal with the school as a school or with the headmaster, the teachers, or the employees, but my responsibility in the institution… I deal with the general director of the Latin school, the School of affairs, the Melkite Schools, and all kinds of schools.
Right now your church is under the constructions. Where do you have services? You don’t have services here?
No, no, we have a chapel in the first floor. We started this building in 2006 with the donation of a Jordanian expatriate from my parish. He is living in New York and his name is Saleh Naber. He donated 300,000 dollar and when he donated this money… one year later he died, he passed away and he has six boys and one girl living in the states with their mother and they follow up a little bit with the constructions… for the donation for the church. Now to do this construction we got from the patriarchate about 200,000 dollar also and I got from my parishes around 150,000 dollar by donations, contributions from the parish. And we have a web page in Arabic and in English. You can go and see all the details of the building, with the photos and plans and the name of the donors and the expenditure and the cost of estimation for finishing. All the full story you can have it in Arabic and in English and this webpage is called mansaf. You know mansaf?
Jordanian food. Everybody knows it, for that I call it mansaf. It‘s very easy to spell. To spell the name, spell the homepage to people, even on the phone and even if you tell a Jordanian about mansaf, he is happy, he is smiling. And you see when I said mansuf.org, you smiled because you know the mansaf. You know Jordanian food. So if you lose the paper you will remember the name, mansaf, very easy.
And even if I don’t give my own page you can spell it, spell it.
Very easy. You got it right. So you got it right even without me spelling it to you. It’s called mansaf.org and you go there and you find mansaf you find the building of the church.
Now how many people attend your parish, the chapel downstairs?
How many people come to the church or how many families in the church in the parish or both?
Well you can say both, but how many people attend really? 50 -75 -100.
No, no from around 100 to 150 every Sunday and Saturday. We have the high mass on Saturday evening and another mass on Sunday morning at 8:00. And at 6:00 on Sunday I say mass in another church, not here. Because in my parish we have Our Lady of Peace Center. You know perhaps about it.
I have heard of it.
If you are interested you can go there and photograph the church, it’s a very wonderful church. There’s a center there for handicap people, for social service and there is a colleague, a priest… colleague of mine, he is in charge of the center as a center and I am in charge of the church as a church. So I am responsible for the funerals, baptisms, marriages, all kind of services in the church and I say the mass in the evening at this church. So Sunday I have two masses. One in the morning here and another one in the Our Lady of Peace Center. And the big mass, the congregation mass, on Saturday evening.
Now I want to ask you little bit of personal question. And first of all I want to let you know that I know that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. I know that He lives and that He guides us and that He is our God. For you, how did you know that Jesus Christ is lord and king? How did you know that He is the Messiah? How do you know that He lives?
We know that through faith. And when I say faith… faith which is based on hearing not on reading because when you are a child you know that Jesus is lord through your mother and father. They are the first catalyst, you know, and secondly through reading the bible, the Christian life.
That’s a pretty intellectual approach. Reading and learning through your mind, listening to your parents…
It’s intellectual and sentimental also. It’s not question of mind. It’s your whole life… it’s a whole option of life to know Jesus as your savior.
So did you have any certain experiences in particular that caused you to really know in your heart or did you always know from the time you were kid?
I always know it. Always I know it, always I loved it, and always I lived it but without big show. Now I respect the experiences of other people. I respect all kinds of religious experiences, the human experience. There are some kinds of people who will tell you that at a certain time, certain day, certain hour, I don’t believe. I have nothing in mind. I am not believing in God or Jesus and suddenly like explosion I had something and I believed Jesus is my savior, Jesus is my God which is good. It’s a wonderful experience, but I had the normal experience, growing up I knew that Jesus is…
The scriptures says, “ line upon line and precept upon precept”.
Yes, day by day I came to know Jesus is love, Jesus is our savior and the church… the church is that the experience of this love of God through us, it’s the sacrament of the love of God.
So then in what ways does your life manifest the faith or in what way do you show your faith?
Through loving people, through charity, through sacraments that I administer, through serving the people, the confessions, the eucharists, visiting sick people, through reading the Bible, through living the values of the Bible. I can’t say that I live every verse of the Bible. Surely there are verses in the Bible I love more and more, but finally I can say that I try to live the… All this love in the Bible, you see it during the day through the reading of the Bible in mass, through the private reading of the Bible, the word of God and through acceptance of other people even if they are different.
Now you seem to have a pretty good acceptance of people. Do people here accept you and your… Let me ask you another question. How well do people accept Christians here in Jordan? Christians are 5% maybe of Jordan, very small number. How well are they treated?
Before I tell you about how they accept Christians or not, we have to ask ourselves if we accept everybody else. For me accepting people is based on theological principles and divine principles not just human principles. Human principle they are there, but the bottom line is it is a theological question to accept other people. Of course God created us different as human beings. Even in the nature it is totally different. It is the same in nature as with the human beings. The Lord created us different, different in color, different in language, different in culture, different in ways of life, education and finally different in religion. What if God, the Lord, created all human beings as copy paste, similar? They speak all English, which is better, or Arabic or Chinese so we not have to suffer to learn a foreign language. You did a lot of learn Arabic, yes?
I am still learning, yes.
You are still learning and you are doing big effort. What if God created all people with the same language, with same culture, eating the same food? It could be better I don’t know, but I think Jesus God created us all different in different ways. Even if you are twin brothers you have different sicknesses and different attitude to life. That’s normal even if they are similar in face. So if we as human beings accept and love the creation of God, we have to accept the pluralism that God created with the creation of human beings. So, in my mind I think we have to maximize the common ground with people and to respect differences.
It doesn’t mean that if you are different you are my enemy. We have a lot of common ground. We have to look at the common ground in people. I know I am catholic. I know you are in the Mormon church. So do we fight over that? We have many common areas and let us work with the common ground. If you are something different, it’s normal because it’s the will of God. So finally I accept difference with people. I accept the will of God. If I want to have all people similar to myself in color, in religion, in attitude and nationality and interest even that means I am refusing this pluralism in the will of God. God created us different so let’s respect each other and cooperate. And on this principle I accept the Muslims.
I accept different Christian churches, but if I say I accept all the different Christian churches and I accept Muslims or I accept all the different categories of people then… You see, I am Jordanian and I am Arab and I accept all the people. For me Americans are nice people and all people are nice, plus or minus. But this doesn’t mean that I accept all their ideas. I accept… I believe in some of their ideas but I have my own principles and they are saying the same things toward me, you see, so let’s look together at the common ground and work together and respect their differences. You see, it’s so easy.
I completely agree. Now there used to be higher number of Christians here and people have been immigrating to Europe, to United States, to Chile and South America, wherever, and part of that is because… maybe not so much in Jordan but in the other parts of Middle East, Arab world, Christians have been leaving. Do you think there is a possibility of increasing the number of Christians here in this land again?
Yes, why not.
And how could that be done?
It’s not a question of whether to increase or decrease the number. It is the matter of question to increase our love to God, our faith, our attachment to Jesus, attachment to the Holy Land and if you look just to the 20th century, Christianity in the Middle East passed the same catastrophic stories and effects like all the ethnic and religious groups but you see… usually you see the effect of wars and catastrophes and civil wars and international wars, you can see the effect on the small minority… religious minority more than the majority, you see but Christian in Jordan they are minority from the religious point of view, but we are the majority also because we are Arabs. I am part of the majority as Jordanian Arab. I am a Jordanian. The Christians in Jordan are Arabs. The rest of the Christian tribes who live in Jordan, the Circassians and the people of Chechnya, we have a good number of them. They are minority as ethnicity, because they are not Arabs, but they are Jordanians. They are not originally Arabs but they are majority as Muslims, you see. I believe the question of minority and majority we have to see it more political… the political meaning. If you win the elections you are the majority, you can form the cabinet and other people are the minority. The next year it could be the opposite. The minority would have the cabinet and we have the majority.
I think the word majority and minority is taken from politics and party life to ethnicity and religions. I don’t feel that because I am Christian I am minority. In the Middle East there have been many catastrophic events in the 20th century up to these days in the 21st century. It affected all the people in Middle East but mainly you can see the effect these days on the Christians because they are small in number. First… let’s not talk about the 18th century, go through my book for the 18th century, but at least in the 19th century you can say that we have in the Middle East some lines of defense for Christianity.
You know, during the World War II there was the Maginot line and we had this kind of line of defense on the Six Day War. Bar Lev, the line of Bar Lev, very famous Israeli line of defense. So we can say we had this kind of line of defense for Christian presence in the Middle East. The first crash of this line of defense was in 48…1948 in Galilee when many Christians in Galilee immigrated to other parts of Palestine or to Jordan, to Syria, to Lebanon. So Christianity in the Galilee was a little bit distorted, crashed. The second line of defense was Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Ramallah, and this line suffered a lot during and after until today since the war.
In ’48 in Jerusalem there were living 40,000 Christians, now there are living just 10,000. You see what‘s happening with Christians in historical Palestine, Israel and Palestinian territory are less than 2%. The third line was the civil war of Lebanon. Many Maronites, Catholics, Orthodox, left to Australia and Canada and to South America. And even the biggest Lebanese city in the world is not Beirut… it’s in brazil. Rio De Janeiro
You mean it has the most Lebanese.
Yes, you have more Lebanese in Rio De Janeiro then in Beirut. You can find more Lebanese in Montreal that in Hermel or Jounieh.
And most of those are Christians?
Most of them are Christians and you can find more Lebanese in Toronto or somewhere in United States than you find them in Baalbeck. It’s the line of presence crashed down. In the invasion of America to Iraq… Well, I will not talk to you about Iraq because its very recent and you can see with your own eyes. But what we are seeing these days is the line of defense cracking down in the Christians of Syria also. I will not talk about it just because we are living in Jordan and you can see for yourself.
When a friend of mine came here some days ago and this man was working as a tourist agent. He sells tickets to people… flights. He told me very sadly… he told me in the 90’s that he was filling the airplanes with the Iraqis traveling to America, New York, Florida, San Diego. “These days we are filling the flights with Syrians” he said. They are leaving the country. Until now we can say Jordan… it is peaceful. Since the creation of the state of Jordan 60… like 68 years ago, we haven’t experienced a real crisis in the Christian presence, but as a Christian in Jordan, as Jordanians in general and Christians in particular, we are part of the Middle East issue, you see. It’s one stuff.
And what is happening in Syria and Iraq, in Egypt now, with the muslim brotherhood we can see that the economy is going down. Christians they have many worries and there are some saying that within one year at least 100,000 Copts left Egypt. So in Jordan we still have a peaceful situation. Our government, our king is doing well. He is not a dictator. Human rights are speaking in Jordan, plus or minus. We are not a model for the world but we do our best to respect human rights. But we are part of this stuff in the Middle East, this issue. If you have a brother in Syria or Iraq and you know, it’s affecting us. At least it’s affecting us economically and psychologically.
I hope that Jordan can remain a place of refuge and a strong example to the rest of the people here in the Middle East because it is a strong country compared to a lot of places around right now.
I think so, but it’s not depending on just Jordan. I remember last year around this time, it was in February, I was in Beirut Lebanon and I was talking with people in Jounieh, near Beirut. I was seeing that there was no tourist, no people coming to the shops, to the restaurant. I asked an old Lebanese… I said, “How is life going these days in Lebanon with you?” and at this place I did not see tourist people coming or taking food and drink. He said to me in Arabic. I will say it for you – إذا جارك بخير، أنت بخير “If your neighbor is okay, you are okay”. But the opposite is true if your neighbor is not living well, you are not well. So Lebanese can not say I am happy and living well if their Syrian neighbors are suffering daily, killing and car bombing and all that you read in the news. Same thing for you, for us, we can’t say that we are living well in Jordan when we see our Syrian neighbors. Where we are sitting now we are just 85 kilometers from the borders. If I take you in my car to the borders you can hear the…
Gun shots, yes and 60% of the trade in Jordan was with Syrians. Syrian trade… all our business trades coming through Syria and Syrian trades comes through Jordan to the Persian Gulf, so they stopped.
The Syrian civil war has a huge effect.
Big effect in our economy, in our daily lives.
Well, thank you for sharing that. It helps to see the overall picture. I just have one more question. You mentioned when I asked about how to increase the number of Christians here in this area, you said its not about increasing the numbers. It’s about increasing our love for Jesus and increasing our love for the Holy Land. That seems to a theme that I’ve crossed a lot, the attachment to the land. This is the land where the Bible took place, where Moses came and where Jesus Christ himself came. Mostly in Palestine and Israel areas but often he crossed over the Jordan, beyond the river, and come here to what we now know as the country of Jordan.
Jordan is the only country in the world that three people came and stepped on this land.
Stepped on this land. Very important people. Moses was in Jordan, passed through but he never went to Palestine. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and announced the annunciation of Nazareth, and died on the cross in Jerusalem. He came to the Jordan, crossed the river, Transjordan. He came to see John the Baptist. And Muhammad going to Damascus passed through Jordan. The three founders of the Monotheistic religions passed through this land of Jordan.
Mohammad never went to Lebanon for instance. He was, according to the Muslim tradition, Surah Al-Isra, which means the eternal journey of Muhammad to heaven through Jerusalem. Moses never went in Jerusalem. We can say Jesus was in Jerusalem, Muhammad, according to the muslim, was in Jerusalem, but Moses…
So Jordan is the only place where …
Only place where these three people, the three founders of the Monotheistic religions passed through the land of Jordan. In the land of Palestine we missed Moses. In the land of Saudi Arabia, Arab peninsula, we missed Jesus and Moses. In Syria we missed Jesus. In Lebanon Jesus stepped on the land of Lebanon but Muhammad did not, neither did Moses. The Jordan is the only country in the world where the three founders of religions passed in this country historically speaking.
So how does that affect your faith? I mean, do you feel a greater connection to Jesus Christ because you were born here?
Not because I was born here. Because the fact that I was born here is not better or star on my forehead because I was born here. I am not better then you because you are from Florida. All the land and the oceans are blessed by the Lord because it was created by the Lord. But I can say that as I am a Jordanian, I am Arabic Christian born in the Holy Land. It is the will of God for me to live in this land as the will of God for you to be in America. You are to be in America.
You should have to… it’s wonderful to be American, but the will of God for you today and for you in this time is to be in America and to be faithful to your country and to live in your country and if you do so you are doing the will of God finally. For me it’s the same thing. As for the Japanese to live in his country and to grow forward with his country, it is the will of god for him. Now I see, I don’t see that I am better then other people because I am living in… at the same time I am not jealous of people living in better country with more wealth and more money and more opportunities and so and so but it’s the will God that I take it and I live with it. So we are the people of the holy land …our Christianity has always has some local color but in the same time we keep our openness of mind, our openness of heart to all cultures and churches and to be a little bit international and to be at your service for all the people coming to the Holy Land even to pray, even to live or just to take photos like you are doing.
We receive them as sent by the Lord as our friends and our brothers and sisters so if you meet… if you go and see our priest, our clergy of the Latin Patriarchate in particular, it’s a mixed clergy. This clergy was founded by Patriarch Valerga and you go back if you like… I don’t have more copies to give it to you. I received some copies from the publishing company for complimentary. They are selling my book. If you read the book the founder of the Latin clergy was Valerga, who came to Jerusalem in 1848 and he didn’t start an Arabic clergy or a foreign clergy. He founded a mixed clergy, open to Jordanians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Egyptians and all kinds of people French, Russian, Bulgarian, German, Americans now we have. So our clergy is a mixed clergy.
These days we have Jordanians, Palestinians, Lebanese, we have Germans, we have French, we have Italians, we have Jews, Israeli Jews who became Christian.
Jew ethnicity but religion Christian. They are some kind of Jesuit Christian, but they are Catholic you see, and they have a leader to take care of them. And within our patriarchal clergy Arabic is spoken mainly, English, French but you can find beside that people speaking Italian within the clergy, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, all kind of languages. A polyglot clergy because we are living in the Holy Land and part of our mission is to receive and play with tourist and pilgrims. In my small chapel, weekly I receive groups coming from Singapore, Malaysia, America, Australia, France, Spain coming to pray at our churches and some of the groups they are not Catholic. They ask to use the church to pray… the church of God you can use to pray. It’s the house of God. So part of our service is to receive, to accept, to undertake, to talk, to pray, with tourists and people coming to the Holy Land and to witness the love of Jesus which is kept in this land today.
Thank you so much.
Thank you, I appreciate you answering my questions, and being willing to talk openly and freely with me. And thank you for your time.